Objective: Being at work when sick has received wide attention because of its probable costs to both employees and employers. Limited data is available for the roles of sickness absence in the health effects of sickness presence. We examined job stress factors, chronic fatigue, sleep disturbances among factory workers while considering their status of both sickness absence and presence.
Methods: A total of 211 employees (mean age 45 years; 193 men) working at a pulp and chemical factory completed and returned a questionnaire asking sickness absence and presence during the previous one year, job stress factors, chronic fatigue, sleep disturbances, and background information (response rate = 97%). Participants were divided into four groups according to whether or not they took sickness absence and/or sickness presence. We compared these four groups for the above dependent variables by analysis of covariance and a multiple logistic regression model to adjust for the possible effects of gender and age.
Results: Workers reporting no sickness absence but presence (12% of the participants) showed the highest levels of quantitative workload, variance in workload, depressive symptoms, and chronic fatigue, and the lowest job satisfaction among the groups, though not significant compared to the sickness absence plus presence group (8%). No significant group differences were observed for the other factors of job stress or insomnia symptoms. But the no sickness absence but presence workers reported the greatest sleepiness at work.
Conclusions: Going to work despite being sick may be associated with adverse stress reactions. Nevertheless, our findings favor the hypothesis that taking a sickness absence appropriately may have some effects to alleviate the presence-related reactions.